Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Aug 28, 2012

Join Gene Weingarten Tuesday, August 28 during his monthly chat with readers.

Take today's polls: Sports polls

Want more? Here's Gene's latest chat.

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.

Good afternoon. 
Have you noticed how much the Republican ticket resembles Scrooge & Marley, Ltd.?
Whether you think they are right or wrong, I can’t think of a national ticket – including Herbert Hoover’s, which famously felt the Depression was a matter for private charities -- with quite such an unashamed, cackling celebration of wealth and a direct, contemptuous message of ice-water-in-the-veins penury and compassionless denial. The rich are better – don’t tax ‘em, and maybe they’ll let a little lucre trickle down to the rabble, not that they deserve it. Illegal immigrants? Beat it! No citizenship for you, nohow, even your kids! In fact, your kids are ugly. Abortions? Never! You shouldna got in trouble, you strumpet. Entitlements? Cut! Cut! Cut! It’s not our job to take care of the indigent spongers. Change voter ID laws to keep the poor from voting?  If we can, absolutely! They’re not smart enough to make the right choices anyway.   
No one’s talking “compassionate conservatism” anymore, or even giving it lip service. Just four years ago, John McCain at least came out against torture; I think if it were still an issue Romney-Ryan would be debating thumbscrews v. the pear of anguish.    
Did you all read Harold Meyerson’s exegesis a few days ago on the election of 1912? One hundred years ago, three of the four candidates were wild-ass liberals, including Republican Teddy Roosevelt, who thought the greatest threat to democracy was the growing concentration of wealth and power, and who was all for labor unions.


I have an odd ambivalence about Mitt Romney: I respect his accomplishments, more so than I did with, say, John McCain or Ronald Reagan or many of the other Republican candidates against whom I have voted. I am pretty sure he'd be a bad president, but I'm seeing that through a prism of someone with a real lefty worldview. I think Reagan was a terrible, terrible president, even though historians by and large disagree with me.

But mostly, with Romney, I am looking at a guy who, personally, represents everything I have always disliked. Romney's only a few years older than I am, which means he could very well have been my college classmate. And believe me, I knew him. He was the frat-boy activist, getting really passionately involved in issues such as whether the curfew after dances would be extended to 2 a.m. He didn't give a crap about the war in Vietnam, until he saw a way that getting involved on the side of the government could help him curry favor with school administrators. Among friends, he would walk effeminately to make fun of gays.  He would attend  pro-war rallies, wearing a blazer and tie. 

 As an adult, he became what to me is just awful: A religious proselytizer. He attacked this mission with a sanctimonious vengeance, being completely comfortable  trying to impose his religion on others. Because he was so Right.

 Agh.  Argh. 

 Okay, lessee
Today is my 32nd wedding anniversary, in honor of which I link back to this column that appeared on my 25th.      
I also decided to write a Higgledy Piggledy tribute, which is complicated by the fact that Higgledies must contain the name of the person about whom you are writing, and by longstanding agreement, I am not permitted to do so.   So:
Higgledy Piggledy
Mrs. Gene Weingarten
(This is a name she has
Never been called.)
So I retract it now
(Which is far better than
Being de-balled.)
My son found this TV commercial from India, which is so terribly wrong on many levels that I would like to discuss. In India, the controversy is over whether it seems to be suggesting that pre-marital sex is bad; ergo, infringing on the sexual rights of women. To me, the affront to women goes far deeper, as it were.

Okay, I urge you all to take today’s poll, which seems awfully hypothetical, but isn’t. There are actual credible answers to these items. I will explain soon.

Let's go. We start at noon.

So I'm sitting in the crapper playing Angry Birds and as I finish up, I think, "Look how far mankind has come! Never again will we be forced to read the labels on cleaning products as we eliminate waste from our systems." Then I began to wonder, why do we read in the john at all? Is it just another deceit that we use to convince ourselves that we are not just animals? A bear may do it in the woods, but I have a nice, warm place.

Oooh, this is a great idea for a poll.   We are going to do it now.   An Instapoll.     I theorize that men, more than women, habitually read on the pot.    So we will make this one simple.   Here it comes.   Choose the appropriate answer.    

Penn State yesterday announced they'll stop playing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" at home football games. The reason? There's a line in it of "touching me, touching you." Is this an overreaction or sensitivity? I wonder if they'll also think to ban Gary Glitter's Rock & Roll, Part Two?

Not sure "overreaction" is the right word.  It is a silliness.  Of course Sandusky's book was titled "Touched."

There will be some math below: Many questions refer to the riddle from my last column:  If a bat and ball together cost $1.10, and the bat costs exactly one dollar more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?   -- In the chat update I mentioned how many readers, for some reason, were  confounded by this. 

In the update, I also posed a different riddle.    It was:  You have a five-gallon container and a three-gallon container.  With unlimited water but no additional container, how do you measure out exactly four gallons? 

Discussions ensue. 

If I have a legitimate doughnut for breakfast, does my body have a way of trying to shut that whole thing down?

Good analogy.  The Rib has a different one, about Akin's backward thinking that if you are REALLY raped, you spontaneously abort, and if you have the baby, you probably, you know, liked it.  It's like the witch trials in Salem.  You throw the witch into the water, bound.   If she sinks and dies, she was innocent.  If she floats, she's a witch and you hang her.  

I'm a young woman who believes in God, and although my IMMEDIATE reaction to the math problem was that the bat was $1 and the ball was 10 cents, I then realized a second later that was wrong. It took me about another five seconds to figure out the answer. I am also terrified by math - as a journalist, I have to actually engage in it every now then for stories about money and data and other crap. Every time I have to figure out a percentage, I check, double check and triple check my math. Then I become convinced I did it wrong, divide the numbers a different way, triple check those numbers only to realize I was wrong and go back to my original numbers. I hate math, but even I got this one!

I have no idea why people choked on this problem.  It's not even math, really.  It's number-substititution.  You think momentarily about the answer being $1 and 10 cents, you realize this doesn't work, and you march each number up and down five cents to make it work. 

I am dumbfounded. 

Clearly, this is about intimidation.  People are terrified even to wade into anything that seems mathematical.  

A few items of note, and an etiquette question: 1) Yes, women going topless is legal in many states. And yet people feel the need to protest anyway: LINK  (It's worth reading the article, if only for the phrase "sex is the real duck.")

2) "Price" is a pretty good name for an accountant, but I believe this company had no choice but to make Price (or anyone, really) a named partner: LINK

3) My boss (male) recently made an instructional video for all of his employees (female), explaining how to create some complex tables. Many of the tables contained information that could be copied and pasted, but one was particularly tedious and had to be created by hand. He announced in the video that "unfortunately, for this one you're going to need to do a hand job." Do I tell him?

1.  You missed the best part of the topless piece!  (Haha, topless piece.)   The name of the pol wanting to use his influence to silence the protest is "Carl Mumpower."  

2.  Yes, this firm should have been "Johnson Sprinkle."

3.  This reminds me of a joke that Gina told in our book.   A boss is upset because profits are down and he realizes he is going to have to fire one of his two best employees.   Either Jack or Sandra was going to have to go.  As it happens, Sandra comes in first.   He says to her, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to either lay you or Jack off."  She says, "Could you please do the second?  I have a headache."

This is a great chat. 

But this is easy. Bat = $1.05 and Ball = $.05 is correct because $1.05 - $.05 = $1.00 Bat = $1.00 and Ball = $.10 is wrong because $1.00 - $.10 = $.90 I don't think people who didn't get this correct are bad at math - they are bad at going back and reading the question to make sure they have the right answer. The jug question took me a minute. Pour the five gallon jug into the three gallon jug until it's full. There are two gallons remaining in the five gallon jug. Pour out the three gallon jug. Pour the remaining two gallons from the five gallon jug into the three gallon jug. Refill the five gallon jug and pour into the three gallon jug until it is full, which will be one gallon . There are now four gallons in the five gallon jug. Maybe I'm better at math than I thought.

Correct answer.    There is at least one other way to do it.  Anyone?  

Ooh! I got it! Fill the 3gal jug, dump in 5gal jug. Fill 3gal jug again, dump in 5 gal jug until it's full (i.e. adding 2 gallons) You have 1 gallon left in 3gal jug. Dump water in 5gal jug. Pour 1 gallon from the 3gal jug into the 5gal jug. Fill 3gal jug and add it to the 1 gallon in the 5gal jug. Ta da! 4 gallons in the 5 gallon jug!

Yep, that's it. 

I don't really get how the commercial is implying pre-marital sex is bad. What I got is that the whole entire product is saying that women who have had sex lots of time can't possibly enjoy it, nor can their partners. It glorifies the whole idea of the "young woman who can almost still be considered a girl,". Heaven forbid an older woman who is experienced in not just sex but life be glorified. It reinforces this idea for men and it helps make women ashamed of their age and experience. That's my two cents.

Mine, too.   

It's also just not even true.  It's this hurtful myth that women get less sexually satisfying as they get older.  Without getting too specific and scaring Ian the Chat Producer ... it's just nonsense. 

We know, more or less, his most famous words. But aren't his last words worth a graph?

Good point.  

Whatever it is, I hope he got the subject-verb agreement right.   

The problem with understanding the question you pose isn't about religion, it's about context and thinking about the problem. Here is how most people see it in their inner minds: I am a eight-year old boy in the 1920s or 30s, wanting to purchase a new baseball and (hopefully) bat. I have been picking blackberries all summer from empty lots in my neighborhood, and my arms are clawed with scars. But my pocket (the one without a hole in it) is full of pennies and shiny nickels saved up from my hard work. My mussed-up hair sticks out from my threadbare cap as I look up at the druggist. He peers down at me with wise, old eyes, shaded in green from his old-timey visor (which he also uses effectively in poker matches). "Well, Sonny, what can I do for you? Would you like some candied rocks? Only a penny a pound." "N-N-No thank you, sir. I--I--would like to buy a baseball," I stammer, while my foot kicks awkwardly at the rusty spittoon under the counter. "Hmm, well that there baseball will cost you X, but the bat is a whole dollar more. That's..." He scribbles in chalk for a minute on small slate next to the faciful cash register. "That'll be one dollar and ten cents." I grin innocently as only a grimy urchin can and pull out each coin setting them gently on the counter. I don't give a hoot what X was. I just know that I don't have to use that old ball made from cat leather and a dog femur bat.

I don't really get your point, but you wrote this beautifully, so you win.   

You may have come across this website, but I wanted to pass it along to you if you haven't. It's a collection of Facebook posts by people reacting to what they read in stories that others have posted from The Onion. The posters are people who believe that the story in The Onion is true -- no matter how absurd or bizarre it is. They often won't believe the people who respond to tell them The Onion is satire (and some of them literally don't seem to know the meaning of the word 'satire.')

Very funny, but I suspect much of this, ironically, is satire.  The posts read too similar; similar syntax and style.  My BS flag is flapping.  Still, very funny.

I love the whole concept of Michael Phelps drowning during his last race.  

Simply put, people are taught in school NOT to be wrong instead of being taught to learn something. This is the problem with the proliferation of standardized tests. We really need to minimize the importance of grades but it will never happen because people want to be able to judge themselves against others and they seem to need grades to do this. Sad.

I don't think the problem is grades, necessarily, though I think there should be two kinds of schools.   One would  de-emphasize grading, but one would not.  I am highly competitive and was highly motivated by the competition for grades.   It helped me be a better student; I realize that for others, it might have the opposite effect. 

My big problem with education -- at least, as I experienced education -- was the emphasis on rote learning where something more gestalt would have been more appropriate.  I grew up hating history, because it was taught through memorization (What were the five causes of the civil war?) instead of an understanding of the way civilizations work. 

To this day, I can tell you the names of all the presidents in order, but I have not memorized the list.  What I remember is the flow of history, and it suggests the list.   ("McKinley was assassinated, so he was followed by his VP, Roosevelt, who served only one full term, followed by his VP, Taft, with whom he quarrelled, leading to a split in the GOP, so Wilson got elected...")   Waaay better way to learn.  

Your eulogy story reminded me of something I have given some thought to -- how to teach one's children to question authority and think subversively. How do you do this without creating a monster? I want them to be able to see that there are times to break the "rules", but they still need get their homework done and otherwise be appropriately responsible. P.S. You should see the horrified looks I get when I talk to other parents about teaching kids to question authority.

You know, this is probably the only consistent lesson I ever gave my kids when growing up.   It started very early.  When I was reading them to bed, I kept making "mistakes."   I would have the horsie go "moo," etc, and the kids loved correcting me.  This was very early subversion: Adults can lie, and you have to correct them. 

Speaking of subversion, AND the eulogy to my uncle Bob that I told in the chat update, AND the subject matter thereof, AND  in honor of the death of Neil Armstrong, and at the suggestions of Horace LaBadie, I am going to tell the Manny Klein story.   Also sometimes called the Mr. Gorsky story. 

Supposedly, what Neil actually said on the moon was "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for Manny Klein."    This was an inside joke.  Back when Neil was a little boy, he found himself in the backyard his Jewish next-door neighbors, Manny and Ceil Klein.    And he overheard an argument.  Mrs. Klein was saying to Mr. Klein,  "Vat?  A BJ you want?  You'll get a BJ around the time the kid next door walks on the moon."  

I attended a conference years ago where the presented gave the following math problem to the auditorium, asking for answers along the way, as indicated in brackets: 1000 + 40 [1040] +1000 [2040] + 30 [2070] +1000 [3070] + 20 [3090] + 10 ... Most people in the audience yell out 4000 ... I think this was supposed to show something about getting too caught up in patterns, not being willing to think outside the box, and/or group think, but I think it's just another example of Americans being terrible at math.

I might give you the diabolical 12 billiard ball problem.  It kept me home from school for a day, trying to solve it, when I was 12.   Alas, the Web has ruined the 12 billiard ball problem, since anyone can give up and get the answer at any time.  

Gene, I am the poster who asked several months ago if having a relationship with my female BFF (I am female) would constitute infidelity. The chat responses were so thought-provoking I did a serious self-examination of my feelings and discussed it with my husband, because I determined that it was infidelity if I acted on my feelings. Long story short, we decided to divorce but it is the right thing for both of us. I've been lying to myself for too long. We are still good friends and I have admitted to myself I lean far more one way than the other. I am far happier now than I have been in years and yes, I abhor Chick-Fil-A!

Wow.   Thank you for the update. 

This is in reference to the following back-and-forth from last May: 


Gene, I have been (relatively) happily married for almost 20 years. I have recently found myself attracted to one of my friends (we are both female, mid-40's and, of course, smoking hot). I think I want to act on this attraction and I think she does, too. We have both had previous experiences with same-sex relationships prior to our current (heterosexual) marriages. She doesn't think her husband would care. I think mine might. Not sure I can even broach the subject with him. Would this constitute infidelity in your mind?


Ooh, interesting.  So you suggest it might not constitute infidelity because ... why, exactly?   Because it is not really competing for the same emotional part of you?  

It is, though.  It is competing for utter emotinal intimacy, that part, and that part knows no gender specifics.   

I am not judging you here; I'm not saying it's immoral or unethical or unwise or unfair or whatever.   But it's surely "infidelity."  Whether it's also wrong or bad  might depend on many factors, including what your respective marital understandings are, whether there's any chance this might break up either marriage.  

I do like the casual adventuresomeness implicit in it.   And it does pique my general feeling that marriage doesn't imply ownership.   

How do others feel? 


You'd asked if we, as a nation, were so intimidated by math that we wouldn't even try to figure out the answer. Probably, but as a math geek (and, to make your point, a woman), may I ask that you not work toward lessening that intmiidation? Frankly, I rely on it. I find that people will stop badgering me about a conclusion if I simply say, "well, I ran an agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis, and that conclusion is correct." Some will step back as if I whacked them over the head. So, in the interest of keeping my day running along efficiently, let's keep math just a bit scary. Deal? (And yes, it's a real thing.)


As a literature person, I use the word "epistemology" the same way.  When I want to end a discussion, I inform the person that, epistemologically, they are on thin ice.   This usually works. 

Gene, I am a 40 year-old woman. For as long as I can remember, I have needed to have a song or tune in my head. All the time. Usually I can change the song or tune, but never can I turn it off. I fall asleep to a tune (often some bars of Mozart's 39th symphony) and I awaken to a tune (varies, but sometimes it's "Honky Tonk Women"). All day long, in the background of my mind, a song or tune is playing. Doesn't matter what else is going on (yes, even intimate moments, when I have them -- nowadays I'm experiencing a drought). I have never told anyone about this because, even though it is my reality, I feel that people might think I'm mentally disturbed, which I don't believe I am (I've wondered about it). What's wrong with me?

Beethoven had a 39th Symphony?   You mean 9th, right?  

Well, you seem no different to me than people who need music on when they study.  I cannot understand it there, either.   It would drive me nuts. 

In the past, you have sometimes used your enormous journalistic clout to combat metaphorically confused uses of commonplace idioms. I'm hoping you'll be willing to do so with one that has been bothering me lately: "Lives hang in the balance." A balance (which is a scale that compares the weight of two items) implies a judgment: one possible action is compared to another, and one of the two will cause deaths. A correct example might be an auto executive deciding whether to install an anti-child-forgetting device: his balance has money on one side and lives on the other. But it seems to be used (mostly?) for situations in which lives are merely at risk, in which case there is no balance--nothing is being weighed against something else.

I am using my enormous journalistic clout here to say you are right.  

I want the pot-readers to explain themselves. For me, 30 seconds on there is a long time. How do they have the time to read anything? Not getting enough fiber? Scheduling the event for a particular time of day regardless of need?

I cannot answer that.  I can say that my suspicions were right.  Men read more on the pot.   My theory is that women are far more efficient jugglers of their time, because they have to be.   Reading on the pot is wasting time.  Period. 

When you say "read," do you mean to include all activities meant to pass the time, like playing Angry Birds?

Yeah, I guess.  Angry birds are reading.  

Next chat we'll do another instapoll:  Have you ever taken a laptop onto the pot, to work.  I myself have done this.  I refuse to reveal if I have done this during a chat. 

Today's polls are actually doable without tying my computer and internet connection in knots. Yipee!

And the answers are next.  They will surprise you. 

Some of your earliest poll taking fans must not be huge sports fans. Exceptionally accurate QBs and MLB pitchers complete passes/throw strikes at a rate of about 65%. Factor in that those statistics are with a greater room for variance (i.e. receivers adjusting to balls not thrown directly at their gut, strike zones usually larger than a soup can if Laz Diaz isn't umpiring, etc) and I've got to believe they'd perform at a rate lower than that 65%, but not by much if their accuracy is a defining trait. Some of the poll takers have them throwing strikes ata 90% clip!

The answers are going to surprise you, then.  They stunned me.  

These questions have pretty good, accurate answers.   In the case of the archers and QB, it was actually subjected to a scientific test, involving Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  Drew, believe it or not, hit 2o of 20 bullseyes.    It was amazing.   The archers did much worse -- about 6 out of 20!     Apparently, it is easier to throw a football with great accuracy than any other kind of projectile!   (Less wind resistance, perhaps?)

For the baseball answer, I consulted The Post's great baseball writer Tom Boswell.   Tom has watched more pitchers from up close, analytically,  than most people who aren't pro catchers.   He estimates a really great control pitcher -- he's thinking Livan Hernandez, in his prime, would hit that can about 54 times out of 100.  

For basketball, I asked Michael Lee, who covers the Wizards for The Post.   Mike said that halfcourt, even for a pro, is largely a matter of luck.  They don't practice that shot, ever.   He's guessing the really good outside-shooting pro sinks 3 or 4 at most.    


You know what irks me? I keep debating a bunch of men who say life is life, regardless of rape, but when I ask them whether they are willing to adopt these babies or willing to give the mothers financial support to raise them, I hear crickets. Why isn't the media covering the total hypocrisy of the GOP platform that is essentially creating an unfunded mandate by pushing for no abortions under any circumstances but also not recommending any help for the mothers who would be forced to keep the babies (and actually trying to defund programs that would help!) ?

Scrooge.  Marley.   I want this to catch on.   We must all do our parts. 

Scrooge & Marley Ltd. 

I am worried he might win. Will he do irreparable damage to the nation? Will he cut my job (federal worker), will he try to repeal Obamacare when I am desperately waiting for it to be implemented? And perhaps worse things?

I'm not sure why you don't simply accept my word on this.   Obama wins in double digits.   This is not a close election.  Don't listen to people who know what they are talking about, listen to me. 

I used to be a corn-checker. I pulled back the husks to decide which ears had kernels that looked plumper. After reading your chats, I stopped doing this at my local farmers' market out of consideration for you corn-grillers, though I personally remain a boiler. Twice this summer, while husking purchased ears at home, I have been met by large, nauseating, wriggling brown-gray worms which would have been easily discovered and avoided had I merely done as I always had before. You can see where this is going: please provide your address so I can send you some twist-ties to close your husks, as I will once again be checking them.

I have never found a worm in an ear of corn I have cooked.  Ooh, I wonder if they just turn into mush and I eat em? 

Speaking from my own experiences (female, 27, hot), I think there is not enough stress on the "how" of solving math problems, and too much stress on the "why." When I was in 6th grade, my elementary school switched to a new math textbook. It was full of colorful pictures, long paragraphs, and contained very few math problems. To teach the basics of solving algebraic expressions, there was a picture of a scale balanced by an equal number of chess pieces. Our teacher had the actual scale, which he held up at the front of the room, removing one piece at a time. I was in gifted, but I could not understand why I needed chess pieces to solve an algebra problem. I finally just taught myself algebra by writing out the list of steps I needed to complete in order to solve the problem. I didn't need the why in order to get the answer, only the how. Looking back, I understand the chess pieces and why the teacher was using them, but I still think that teaching method was ridiculous, and a complete waste of time, actually. It was a relief to get to high school and find all my textbooks were from the 70s. Math is like cooking. You follow a series of steps to reach a desired end product (steps all old textbooks will teach you). You don't need to know why a hot oven will successfully bake you chocolate chip cookies; you only need to know how to combine the ingredients and set a timer. When I was a junior in high school, half of my classmates failed the state assessments in math. I tutored my classmates to help them pass the test on the second try and was amazed that none of them could figure out the “howâ€Â of solving simple algebraic expressions, especially when given to them in word problems (although they didn't seem to know "why" either). It was sad, and a little scary. Mostly I blame the chess pieces. Have other people noticed this problem? I think most people who don't know how to solve the bat/ball problem don't know how to approach it. Sorry for the lengthy post!

Teaching is complicated.   I think we make mistakes in both directions:  Too much rote, sometimes, and too much new-age philosophy, sometimes. 

I started learning Spanish in 8th grade, under a new philosophy that the best way to teach kids is total immersion.  The teacher never spoke a word of English.  I found this wildly intimidating.   The very first thing she said to us was "Hola clase.  Yo soy Senorita Weiner."    

I got the first part, but assumed that a "senorita weena" was the word for "teacher."   This threw me for longer than I like to remember.   I needed to ask a question, in English, but was not allowed to.    She then held up a pencil and said "Yo tengo un lapiz."   Now, if she had pointed to the lapiz, and said, "lapiz," I'd have gotten this immediately.   Instead, I remember wrestling with "Joe," "tengo," and "lapiz" and trying to figure out which was which, and by then she was on the cabezas and libros.  Disaster.  

Gene, What is the opposite of a hypochondriac? Because that's what I am. Unexplained headaches and dizziness? Probably nothing. Even though I have a history of cancer? Still, probably nothing. Having gotten my annual cancer screening? Eh, it's probably fine. I had cancer at 27 and I now find it impossible to take my health seriously. So tell me, am I nuts?

I've never come up with a good term for this.  The Rib is one.  

I'd like to hear your thoughts on some of the views of the women profiled in Stephanie's McCrummen's article from this morning. My take is, these women, and maybe conservative women in general, still primarily see women as baby- and home-makers. Liberals see women as capable of more. Hence the rub.


Hey, Stephanie is a really good writer.  I enjoy everything she writes.   

Got in a debate with some friends about the lyrics to the incredibly annoying fizzy teen pop hit "Call Me Maybe." I maintain that the lyric "Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad" is clever (if clumsy), while my friends say it's pretentious dreck. I figured you would be the best judge. Your thoughts?

Well, compared to most lyrics, it is great.  It is not exactly Dylan, but I like it. 

It tears me up inside to have to depict cops as good guys to my little kids so that they'll go to them for help when every day I read about cops shooting dogs for no reason or seizing people's cash after commando raiding their home because they found a tiny doobie in the basement. Once they're 16, I'm buying them some NWA to make up for it.

See, I have no problem with that.  Cops ARE good guys, mostly.   I'm fine saying that without a caveat about the ones who aren't.   I mostly admire cops.   

"You cannot be a Christian and be pro-abortion." What in the world motivates people to put things like this on their car?

The same sort of willful ignorance that declares a child of rape to be a blessing. 


You tweeted about sports that are based on artistry and judging. I submit that these should officially be known as spArts. You're welcome

Thank you. 

I've been dating a man for nearly three years. We're taking it slow, but recently it's been getting serious. Just recently, however, I walked into my bedroom and found him sitting on my bed reading the comics. As he set them down I heard him say, "ha ha, Frank & Ernest -- always funny." Do I have to break up with him?


Frank & Earnest is often funny!    

True fact:  David Clark, the brilliant cartoonist for Barney & Clyde, was not a devotee of the comics pages when we partnered with him.  The only comic he was familiar with was Frank & Ernest. 

You have to like puns.   If you are one of those people who automatically dismisses the pun as lowlife humor, you cannot stand Frank & Earnest.  I like it. 

Gene: I have a minor in math and I am very bright but your problem has a key element of misdirection that keeps us in the dark. The Total for both bat and ball is $1.10 and once that number gets into our heads, we lose it. The key number is bat minus the cost of the ball and it HAS to be a dollar. If we focus on that, it is almost wasy. Two equations work out: A + B is equal to 1.10 and A - B is equal to 1.00. Then we add both equations and the minus B and plus B drop out and we have 2 A equals 2.10 so one A is 1.05 and B is a nickle. But I must admit I really believet it was one ollar and a dime for longer than I shold have. If I can digreess, it is much like a thought problem about driving a two mile track. If yu average 30 miles per hour over the first mile, how fast do yu have to go on the second mile to average 0 miles per hour. I think it got to be either 120 or 180 miles per hour. But if you think about time used, you have to do the whole time in two minutes. If you do the first mile in two minutes (30 miles per hour) time is up. You can not do it. Some moth problems are stranger than we can imagine. (JBS Haldane).

I am having trouble getting past your typing/writing ineptitude.    But the logic here is also garbled; of course there is no way you can wind up at zero miles an hour; the only way to average zero miles an hour is to not move at all.  

I don't get the question you posed in the Magazine. I am female, a person of faith, but agnostic, and Unitarian Universalist. I am just really bad at math, not wired that way. Seriously, to the point where it makes my brain hurt.

Q: When do you hear the named "Jesus Christ" mentioned in a Unitarian Universalist church?

A:  When the janitor falls down the stairs. 

I think they're both smug, but in ways that describe their former professions. Obama's smugness is that of a professor. He knows the "right" answer, even if it's theoretically an opinion, and he figures if he just gives the right verbal cues or asks the right questions then you, the student, will figure out the right answer too. Romney's is that of a hedge fund manager. He is engaging in highly technical trades and doesn't want to bog you, the individual investor, down in details that will only confuse you when what you really care about is results. So he just moves along assuming that he doesn't really have to explain anything. I find the former less galling than the latter because it assumes I am capable of engaging intellectually, but I can understand why people would feel differently.


It's not an aptonym -- at least I hope not -- but the publisher of the Indianapolis Star is named Karen Crotchfelt. And people felt sorry for a boy named Sue.

And, she is very attractive.  And smart.   This is the Smucker's phenomenon, so I am also sure she is extremely competent.  

I wonder of her ancestors lived here.  (ALERT: The previous link, on Wiki, will look rude on a computer screen.)   

Gene, you do a disservice to the legacy of Scrooge & Marley Ltd. by comparing the Republicans to them. Scrooge and Marley would never have tanked the economy with sub-prime mortgages, 4th order derivatives and credit default swaps, then beg the government to rescue them.

Obviusly, you have not researched Scrooge and Marley.   They were EXPERTS in sub-prime mortgages.  And believe me, sub-prime mortgages in 1850s London were very disagreeable properties.   Big rat problems. 

I didn't understand that it was about premarital sex at all. Although there was no way to tell if the man and woman dancing were married, I thought it was saying that a woman who isn't a virgin needs some - for lack of a better word - tightening. Which is crude and insulting and misogynistic, but has nothing to do with premarital sex.

As I said, I agree, but if you read the articles about this, you will see that that was the dialog in India; they felt it was saying that men will not want wives who aren't virgins.  I see it as WAY more insidious a message.   Very anti-woman. 

Just curious -- what accomplishment(s) of Romney's do you respect, exactly? With the caveat that I too have a very lefty worldview and didn't for one second consider voting for any of the three gentlemen you name, I not only dislike Romney personally for the reasons you state and more, I also have a hard time finding much about him to respect. He was born to privilege and used the leverage of money and position to go into a line of work that mostly involved making more money for himself and his partners by whatever means necessary. I guess he saved the SLC Olympics, but given that the original organizers were both ineffective and corrupt, that doesn't seem to be the high bar his supporters would make it out to be. He governed Massachusetts during a time of relative economic plenty that gave him a lot of room to make things better without making many sacrifices. He waxes rhapsodic about America but stashes his money overseas to ensure that his own personal contribution to America will be as small as possible, even though he has more money than he could possibly use. And he can't sing. McCain is ill-tempered, self-righteous, and self-absorbed, and enjoyed a far better reputation with the press than he deserved until he made the craven mistake of choosing Palin, but I can find a few things in his record to admire. I'm at a loss with Romney. What am I missing?

Well, he has succeeded at almost everything he has tried; I have not done that.    He is invested with a great deal of responsibility -- from the elders of his church to the organizers of the Olympics -- and he has not disappointed this trust.    I mean, c'mon.   His resume is impressive.  

Don't forget my caveats.   

Care to update us on how your fanhood for the Nats has evolved over this special season?

Evolved totally.  They are no longer a team that is ungrateful for support.   My huge fear is that the Nats will face the Yankees in the series.   It'll be awful for me, like watching Dad and Mom fight to the death. 

I think Michael Lee is wrong about half-court accuracy for good outside shooters. When players are warming up before a game, the good shooters sometimes do venture out to half-court to goof around and they do tend to knock them down at a higher clip than can be explained by luck. I remember Jamal Mashburn doing that at Kentucky, and he was just an okay NBA player.

Well, I don't think 3 or 4 out of 25 is pure luck.  I think I would hit zero for 25, pretty darn consistently.  

Gene, I consider you our country's leading authority on poop and lavatory-related ethics, and I need your advice. Our men's room at work has three stalls, and the one against the wall farthest from the door is the handicapped stall. When someone is in one of the non-handicapped stalls, I prefer to take the other non-handicapped stall. Others seem to consider leaving a space between occupants paramount, and if I am in the one nearest the door, they will take the handicapped stall. To my knowledge there are no male full-time employees on my floor who need to use the handicapped stall, but then again, there could be guests, clients, or temps who do, and there may also be people with disabilities that aren't at all obvious. So, if the stall nearest the door is occupied, is it more appropriate to take the middle stall or the handicapped stall?

I would always go for the greatest distance, unless I knew about the presence of a handicapped person, or unless I suspected I'd be in there an unusually long time.  But I'm not confident this is the right thing.   Can we hear from a handicapped person?  

Gene, I completely disagree with your theory that No Exceptions for abortions is essentially a more honest anti-abortion position. Your logic is, murder is murder, so rape, incest, life of the mother have nothing to do with it. But what is murder? How many degrees of murder do we have in the law? 1st, 2nd, 3rd...manslaughter, vehicular homicide and no murder at all if its proven to be self defense, even though you really did kill someone. Its not murder if you are found insane and its also not murder if a cop kills someone in the line of duty. So, having exceptions for abortions is entirely consistant with not only the law, but most people's general beliefs. Does anyone really think that all "death at another person's hand" cases should be classified the same way and all punished the same way? I think not.

I disagree.  Though I need to make clear: I don't at all agree with the definition that abortion = murder.

But if you do agree, then I think you kind of have to be consistent.   Under this definition -- abortion is murder -- it is a very specific kind of murder: Murder in the first degree.   Premeditated, unprovoked, cold-blooded murder of an innocent.  This is not in anyway akin (AKIN!) to any of your examples. 

I wish these men could be for 5 minutes transported to the body of a woman who is not sure if she has the wherewithal to raise a child, and sees those lines on a pregnancy test. or a woman who is pregnant after surviving rape. Terrifying.

Isn't it interesting that so many of the anti-abortion zealots who are so sure of themselves and so sanctimonious, are men?  I am convinced that if all the men left the anti-abortion movement, it would wither.

I am convinced that for many it is not about abortion.  It's about perceived licentiousness; a visceral disgust at the notion of casual sex.    It explains Akin:   Most rape is just people of both genders, acting badly. 

But who in the world wants to harken back to the "first time" for a commercial for a sex product? How often was that "a good one?"

Good point.  But to the makers of this ad, and to the Akins of the world, it's all about how it feels for the guy, physically.  And sure -- a scared young woman, intact ... just ew.   

The commercial is vile, if effective.  I think the main woman is a good actress, and chosen for a certain kind of look.  

Gene, there was an article in the New York Times recently about how algebra is not a necessary subject to teach in schools. Did you already respond to this? If not, I'm very curious what your take is on it. Regardless, as a employee in a math-saturated profession, I think that the biggest problem is a short-sighted teaching method. People learn different ways, sometimes through examples or through visual learning or just by repeating the steps until it clicks. But the vast majority of schools will teach to a specific test or subject without drawing overarching conclusions on how to apply said knowledge beyond the classroom. For math, it's a hard problem to fix (especially since there is merit in the practice-makes-perfect approach), but I think it would make a huge difference.

I was in total disagreement.  For one thing, I use both algebra and geometry more than occasionally.   For another, it's a great way to exercise the brain.  

Dan is a higher-math major, dating a higher-math major. She is also a cellist -- and I think there's a great deal of math in music.  Anyway, there's a lot of intellectual energy in that relationship.   

His symphonies Nos. 10 through 38 just aren't very good.

Right.   Clearly.  Lost to history.   Well, I guess those are the ones he wrote TOTALLY deaf.   And senile. 

Did you watch the interleague series? We were injury depleted, but it was a thorough shellacking much more than I expected it to be. I hope we don't face the Yankees again.

The Yanks are vulnerable.  I hope we don't face the Nats again.  

This is exciting, no?

I have a nephew that's a product of rape. I would have understood either way whatever my now-sister-in-law (then "just" my brother's girlfriend) did. But is it bad that I can understand what a few of these people mean when they say a pregnancy from a rape is still a blessing?

If my wife were raped and got pregnant, back in the day,  I suspect keeping the baby might at least be discussed.  

But, no.  that sentiment is inexcusable, as a generality. 

Let's tackle the larger question -- is it okay to use the handicap stall? It's not like a handicap parking space, where you need a placard to park there. If the entire place is empty, is it ever proper to use the handicap stall for extra space? How about if you're 6-3 with long legs and the other stalls are tight?

I'd really like to hear from a handicapped person on this.  

This person has no taste buds, Gene. Anyone who thinks a sweet vegetable needs to be smothered in sugar is not worth arguing with. You get tired and dirty and the pig enjoys it. That said, WHEN are you going to answer my oft-submitted question about corn silk when your cooking method is used?

You pull the corn silk off the ear before you cook it.  OBV.   

I may be a little weird in this belief, but here it goes: I don't care if Lance Armstrong doped. Not because I like the guy, but because completing the Tour de France is such a superhuman feat in itself. Maybe it sullies the wins, but I just find the fact that a human, drugged up for not, can pull it off so crazy I just can't find any hate in my heart. On the other hand, I'm harder on guys like Mark McGuire. Hitting home runs in the majors is certainly hella hard, but it doesn't strike me as nearly as hard as the Tour. Am I a terrible person for this?

To me, the difference, if there is one, is that it does appear that on the Tour, Everyone Doped.  

But I don't excuse it; it was a ridiculous system.  I do now think that the hypocrisy behind the whole anti-doping movement is huge, based entirely on this great piece by Sally Jenkins.  

I've been wondering about this for a while and obviously can't ask anyone else. If Number One is pee, and Number Two is poop, would Number Three be, er, "monthly menses"? At first I thought no, because you can't actually "go" Number Three. But I dunno.

Number three has two meanings!  For women it is menses.  For men, it is an orgasm.   

This story: ( seems different from the more common stories about parents leaving their kids in cars. It seems like the daycare provider should have a higher level of responsibility, but presumably the same factors that cause parents to forget would apply to the daycare provider too. What do you think?

The issues are a little different: These cases tend to be simple negligence, which is in some ways less excusable.    Most of the cases involving a parent involve unusual stress, change in routine, etc.     

The most moving thing in this case, to me, is how the parents still managed to express forgiveness.    I'm in awe of that. 

Gene. Lots of comments today on the statement below. I am personally disgusted that anyone would say this, much less a woman. Your thoughts? "Barnes, a local Republican committeewoman, told a reporter that if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, then God has 'blessed this person with a life' that should not be taken."

Hm.  I see I answered some questions assuming this had already been published.  Apologies if you found it confusing.    

I think it is appalling that anyone would say it, woman or man. 

We are an insane country, on the issue of abortion, and religion in general. We have lost our moorings. 

I am Polish, and I was somewhat upset that Romney felt it appropriate in this day and age to make an ethnic joke. I do unerstand that religion should be taboo, yet I don't mind, being an agnostic, if people make fun of that. It happens. Agnostics and atheists seem to be open targets on all sides. I do wonder if there are aspects of one's religion that may impact how someone will govern, and whether that is open for discussion. As was noted before, Mormons believe that if they live a good life they will someone rule their own planet. Does that belief have any impact on how someone might govern a nation? Does a Mormon see being an administrator on Earth as preparation for ruling a world?

I hear that Polish people tell Romney jokes. 

She clearly said Mozart. How did you read Beethoven?

Agh.   Sorry.   Well, I like the Beethoven jokes better.  So, in the spirit of honesty personified by this election, I'll just declare that she said Beethoven. 

Wouldn't it have been great if his last words were a whispered, "There were others before me..."

Man.  What a great joke to go out on: 

"It was filmed in a studio...." 

So, no one wants to hear the billiard ball problem?   Too bad.   There are 12 billiard balls.  One is slightly lighter or slightly heavier than the other 11.  You have a simple balance scale.  Find the odd ball in three weighings -- and whether it is heavy or light. 

Haven't done this in years, but we are in the slowest week of the year, and questions have slowed to a trickle.  So I'm declaring us down.   

See you all in the updates! 

In This Chat
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

Click here for links to Gene's past chats and updates.
Lynn Medford
Medford is the editor of Sunday Style and The Washington Post Magazine.
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